Learning Chinese as a Heritage Language

2 October 2015

Guanglun Michael Mu’s book Learning Chinese as a Heritage Language is out this month and it examines the issues faced by Chinese Australian heritage language learners. In this post Michael introduces the key themes of his book.

Learning Chinese as a Heritage Language“I am Australian but I look Chinese. I look Chinese but I can’t speak Chinese.” This is the predicament of my Chinese Australian friend, and probably that of many other Chinese Australians, Chinese Americans, Chinese Canadians, or overseas Chinese in general. Such a predicament also epitomises the tensions around race, culture, and language in the diasporic context. In response to this predicament, I wrote the book Learning Chinese as a Heritage Language: An Australian Perspective.

The book grapples with the complex entanglement of identity construction, language choice, cultural heritage, and social orders. Specifically, the book investigates how Chinese Australians negotiate their Chineseness and capitalise on resources through learning Chinese as a heritage language in Australia and beyond. Though the book is concerned with Chinese Australians, knowledge built and lessons learned can provide insight into other multicultural settings where people of Chinese descent are becoming increasingly prominent in representing the cultural and linguistic diversity of the society, and more recently, in contributing to the economic dynamics of the society. In addition, the focus on the potholes and distractions as well as the benefits and gains of heritage language learning is not restricted to Chinese diaspora, but relevant to ethnic minority individuals and communities elsewhere.

The book wades into the sociological problem of how durable and transposable dispositions of Chineseness unconsciously generates practices of Chinese heritage language learning, that is, how previous state, cultural history, and ancestral root are inscribed in the body and mind, largely taken for granted at present, and potentially projected into the future. However, the book does not align with the deterministic view because it also takes close account of how Chinese heritage language learning constantly shapes and reshapes Chineseness. The book further deviates itself from the thesis of determinism by examining how Chinese Australians strategically count on material and symbolic resources with the expectation of reproducing these resources in their identical or expanded forms.

The book stresses that the embodiment of Chineseness, the capture of resources, and the learning of Chinese heritage language are intertwined and mutually constitutive elements, while the lack of any element may impede the growth of the other two. Moreover, the book is emphatic about the fact that Chineseness, resources, and heritage language do not act and interact in a vacuum. Instead, they respond to each other in diverse social spaces. Power relations and social structures within domestic milieu, school settings, work places, community domains, and larger cultural and geographic zones all come to inform the embodiment of Chineseness, the investment of resources, and the learning of Chinese heritage language.

I hope that the book is of interest to a wide readership. I invite overseas Chinese, postgraduate research students, teachers of Chinese as a foreign/second/additional language, scholars of Chinese cultural studies, sociologists of education and language, as well as heritage language researchers to read this volume and provide constructive comments to this work. By publication of this book, I would like to encourage colleagues in the field to push the limits and break the boundaries, and to rethink unity of diversities and togetherness of differences.

For more information about this book please see our website.

Trans-Atlantic Dialogues on Cultural Heritage conference 2015

30 July 2015

Last week I visited Liverpool to attend the TADCH conference jointly hosted by the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham and the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy, University of Illinois.

Main lounge - Adelphi Hotel

Main lounge – Adelphi Hotel

The conference venue was the main lounge of the famous Adelphi hotel, and the conference dinner was held in an exact replica of the 1st class smoking lounge on the Titanic. There were only a couple of people at the conference who were familiar to me, Mike Robinson, one of the conference hosts (and co-editor of our Tourism and Cultural Change series) and Philip F. Xie, author of the newly published Industrial Heritage Tourism, which was a popular seller at the conference. It was great to meet so many delegates from different areas; architects, archaeologists and historians among them.

Cavern Quarter

Cavern Quarter

A trip to Liverpool would not be complete without some Beatles tourism. Every bar you walked past in the Cavern Quarter had live music pounding out which created a real party atmosphere.

Though I am somewhat ashamed (as a Manchester United fan) to admit, I experienced a very pleasant and interesting tour of Anfield  – including learning why The Kop stand is so named.

The Kop

The Kop

Liverpool is probably the friendliest place I’ve ever been to and my only regret is not going on the karaoke tuk tuk I saw on my first day there! :)


Tourism and the Shifting Values of Cultural Heritage

25 April 2013
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Earlier this month I attended the Tourism and the Shifting Values of Cultural Heritage conference, organised by the Ironbridge Institute for Cultural Heritage, University of Birmingham and National Taiwan University. The conference was held at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei – easily the most impressive conference venue I’ve experienced!

Lee Jolliffe and Joyce Yeh in front of the CVP stand!

The conference was well-attended by Channel View authors, Mike Robinson was one of the conference convenors, and Lee Jolliffe, Philip Xie, Kevin Hannam and Rick Hallett all presented papers. There were a lot of delegates from different disciplines such as history and anthropology. A lot of the attendees remarked on the high quality of papers and I managed to get to a few of them – spices, anime and aboriginal tourism among the subjects.

Mike Robinson closing the conference

Mike Robinson closing the conference

Among the conference highlights were study visits round Taipei,  a 10-course banquet at the Grand Hotel which offered amazing views of the city, and an evening of karaoke – with some brilliant performances from delegates!

Taipei is a great city to visit – I’d highly recommend it :)


An Interview with Dallen Timothy

4 August 2011

With his new textbook Cultural Heritage and Tourism just published we asked Dallen Timothy a few questions about what inspires his research.

What inspired you to study tourism and in particular heritage tourism?
While I was undertaking my undergraduate studies, I had an opportunity to become the co-owner of a travel agency, so I changed my major from linguistics and international relations to geography, which is where the tourism degree was situated at my undergraduate institution. The business deal fell through, thankfully, but I ended up being devoted to geography and in particular to the geography of tourism. As I began learning about the world of tourism and its many perspectives and manifestations, I became more interested in furthering my education to understand the phenomenon of tourism. I completed a master’s degree in political/cultural geography at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and then completed a PhD in the geography of tourism at the University of Waterloo, Canada. I was blessed to work with great mentors like Lloyd Hudman, Richard Butler and Geoff Wall during my undergraduate and graduate years. How could one not be interested in tourism research with these remarkable mentors? As for heritage, since I was a small child I have always been interested in archaeological sites and historic places, and the events and people that accompanied them. It is a truly deep passion for me, not just a job, but a lifelong, serious endeavour. Naturally I gravitated to this subfield within tourism studies, and it has been extremely satisfying.

What makes your book different from others that have been published before?
It provides the most comprehensive overview of cultural heritage and tourism heretofore published and is a state of the art assessment of the field. It focuses on the social science aspects of heritage tourism but also delves into many of the management issues and how these can be dealt with to make heritage places more sustainable and the tourism that revolves around them more destination-friendly. Also unique is the book’s second half, which examines various subtypes of cultural/heritage tourism in greater detail and relates each one’s characteristics and concerns back to the important concepts of sustainability, authenticity, identity, dissonance, interpretation, conflict, and the like.

Which researchers in your field do you particularly admire?
As I mentioned earlier, I have great admiration for Lloyd Hudman (who passed away in 2009), Dick Butler and Geoff Wall. Professor Hudman wrote a couple of pioneering textbook during the 1970s and 80s that were widely used in tourism courses as the field was just beginning to grow. He was a wonderful undergraduate advisor, who gave me a taste of the good life in the tourism academy. I took courses from Professor Butler at the University of Western Ontario, and it was he who really helped me develop a fascination with scholarly research in tourism. Professor Wall was an amazing PhD supervisor, who provided a lot of insight, encouragement and constructive criticism, and also pointed me in the right direction as a researcher. Identifying others is hard, because there are so many excellent tourism researchers, but in my work on cultural heritage I have developed a particular fondness for the writings of Valene Smith, Mike Hall, Stephen Page, David Lowenthal, Greg Ashworth, Brian Graham, Erik Cohen, Richard Prentice, Myriam Jansen-Verbeke, Alan Fyall, Brian Garrod, Graham Dann, Anna Leask, David Herbert, Dean MacCannell, Gianna Moscardo, Alison McIntosh, Bob McKercher, Greg Richards, Tony Seaton, Hilary du Cros, Myra Shackley, John Tunbridge, Melanie Smith, Deepak Chhabra, Joan Henderson, David Airey, and Yaniv Poria. I admire the work of so many brilliant scholars, so it is very hard to narrow this one down.

As a tourism academic you must get to travel to some exotic locations. Where is the most unusual place you have travelled to for work?
I think it’s a toss-up between Greenland and Bhutan. While these are two very different places, they are both extremely unique and fascinating. I have been privileged to have visited more than 120 countries, and I hope to visit many more in the years ahead. Every place has a unique heritage, and I am prone to be interested in the details of every individual place’s past and present. That’s what makes travelling most interesting for me.

What do you think you might have done if you hadn’t pursued a career in academia?
I would probably be in government. I had always wanted to work in the Foreign Service for the US government as some sort of diplomat. I’m glad to have become an academic, however.

And finally, what is your next research project?
Just one? I never have just one, so here’s a more long-winded answer. Presently, I am co-writing two books (and developing three more), which should be published in 2012 by Channel View Publications, one on tourism trails and the other on Christian travel. I also have several ongoing and near-future research projects. First is an examination of divided cities throughout the world to address the dynamics of cross-border management of cultural resources in cities that are partitioned by international borders. The second project looks at borders as a form of geopolitical heritage and the meanings of this designation. Third is a series of surveys in Israel and Palestine with colleagues there to assess the meanings and adaptations of Christian souvenirs and Christian tourism in the Holy Land. Fourth is an exciting new project in six countries of Central America looking at several tourism phenomena, including Mayan culture, intra-regional migration, borderlands shopping and trade, and cross-border cooperation in planning and development. The fifth project, which is in its initial stages of development, examines the role of slave heritage and sugar culture in the Caribbean. Finally, I am finalizing a project that looks at the relationships between religious tourists and destination residents in Nepal and India.


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